Monday, 25 November 2013

A Policeman’s Lot Is Not A Happy One



A couple of years ago the future of Scotland’s police service was discussed on this blog.  The consensus was that policing should be local and the number of regional forces was secondary.

Of course nobody listened to our opinions and with what appeared to be unseemly haste, our eight regional forces were merged into one and renamed Police Scotland.  Nobody listened to Sir Charles Gray either.  He is a former local government head.

...“On one occasion the possibility of a single force was raised. I have never forgotten the contribution by a senior officer who would go on to serve with considerable distinction.
“He said very firmly, it should not be considered. You could have a rogue chief with a few well-placed deputies in charge of what could become, to all intents and purposes, a personal army and a police state

Sir Charles’ foresight isn’t far off the mark and Police Scotland is a shambles.  Audit Scotland have wasted £132,000 renting offices they can’t use because the computer connections don’t work.  How to pay for that?  Stephen House insists that 65 front office counters in stations should be closed because some receive only one or two visits from the public a week.

One of the counters to be axed is in my local town.  I’ve visited there about half a dozen times and found my problems were handled speedily and with competence.  Over the years though, my local service has been slowly eroded; first by the direct telephone line being discontinued and calls centralised to a switchboard in either Dundee or Perth.  Then the hours of opening were gradually reduced because ‘there are not enough officers available to man the counter’. 

Why should a police officer be required to man a local office counter?  Doctors don’t man the local hospital's enquiries desk.  

Police Scotland have been tasked with saving £1.1bn and come hell or high water Chief Constable Stephen House insists the target will be met and making hundreds of police civilian staff redundant, resulting in police officers having to take over their jobs, is all part of his plan.

I decided to live here for three reasons.  One was the attraction of a small community, another was the presence of local hospital and the third was a very local police service which knew every nook and cranny in the area.  We’ve fought long and hard to keep our hospital and, for the moment, it seems safe, but our police service is no longer local.  An officer I spoke with over the weekend lived 24 miles away yet he had been allocated this area: “Don’t ask me why because I don’t know.”

When I asked of he was pleased with the changes he was reluctant to respond.  Eventually I gathered he was rather unhappy, not least because he wasn’t ‘local’. “Don’t even mention cardboard policemen either,” I was informed. Of course I did and, knowing there is no love lost between the ‘beat bobby’ and the traffic police, said that his traffic colleagues won’t be thrilled at being replaced by a cut out.  

Although he smiled at the comment I was very aware he felt demoralised at being unable to provide the service he wanted because his job now consists of ensuring the correct boxes are ticked above all else.  ‘Local’ is a dirty word in any of the services these days. 

9 comments:

JRB said...

Has centralisation helped or hindered? I find it hard to say; for I suspect this separation of police and public has been growing for some time; heightened by a number of recent high profile public incidents, from Ian Tomlinson to Andrew Mitchell.

Perhaps the Stevens Commission will highlight the shortcomings in the ethos and working practises of our modern day police force.

However, the words of Sir Charles Gray are indeed so very pertinent when he says –
“ … what could become, to all intents and purposes, a personal army and a police state…” - worryingly, we are so very nearly there.

Our modern day police force is becoming ever more distant and removed from the society which it serves. Hence the ever growing lack of trust, and dare I say, respect.

No doubt there are examples of a number of very fine officers, but they now work within an organisation that has all the appearance of closing in on its self.
Young macho officers would far rather be seen charging about in their rapid response BMWs than pounding any beat and interacting with the people.
Whenever a ‘bobby’ is seen they are shrouded in militaristic body armour with night-stick, CS gas and Taser at the ready, further adding to their separation from the general public.
And when the police make mistakes, as can happen in any walk of life, they become overly defensive, close ranks and shroud themselves in internal secretive examination. Such introvert actions only add to the lack of public trust.

Much of what is wrong is as Sir Charles Gray worryingly described – a self-contained militaristic ethos that seems to pervade the modern day police force.
Let us correct that flaw first then worry about whether they be local or central.

Demetrius said...

All you need is for the top coppers and the local top military man to be members of the same golf club or something and hey presto you could have a coup d'état.

Antisthenes said...

Having multiple constabularies was in the modern age an unsatisfactory structure for policing and a solution had to be found as it was in Scotland and will need to be found for England and Wales. The Scottish solution was predictably the wrong one and no doubt England and Wales will not learn from it and go pretty much down the same path. The solution chosen like so many others that are blighting our lives these day was based on the socialist model of centralization (I do hate the American spell checkers as they insist you use z instead of s and keep removing u's) instead of the correct one of fragmentation. Crime knows no boundaries and national and international police forces or interstate co-operation is absolutely necessary. Also specialist knowledge and expertise is costly and draws from a small pool of qualified labour to staff them. So the case for a central at national level crime fighting force is necessary but that does not require a large numbers of uniformed officers or numerous or expensive branch offices(as you will see later on they can share them with local forces). For most people the most important fight against crime are those that are perpetrated in their locality. To me yes a national force but more like the US FBI but who also offer specialist assistance to local forces; local city police and rural constabularies like the US Sheriffs (we invented the name after all and I do believe that they do still exist in Scotland all thought I am not sure of that or if they do what they do)

Edward Spalton said...

Demetrius,
I think you have hit on the same point which Common Purpose reached when their organisation was launched.
Antisthenes
The relationship between local forces and central co-ordination used to work fairly well in the days before policemen were promoted to become Chief Constables and commenced internal empire building and politically correct indoctrination of officers.

To a large extent "crime knows no boundaries" because the EU has removed them - and the favoured answer is more top-down centralisation, ever more remote from local control.

Iti is not surprising that Stevens ( a hand-picked New Labout appointment when in active service) should come up with the idea of police forces, based on the EU-inspired English regions. Scotland and Wales are, of course, already EU regions, Whether they become nominally "independent in Europe" or not makes little difference.

John Precott wanted to regionalise the Fire Brigades for just the same reason and the unused control centres which he.built are still being paid for.
£500 million pounds worth of initial capital cost. When asked about this, Prescott simply shrugged his shoulders and blamed his civil servants ( whose senior grades were recruited for his department by consultants from Common Purpose)

Make no mistake, there is always a degree of cock-up but what we are seeing is the imposition of a long-planned , alien form of government by a political class whose loyalties are elsewhere

subrosa said...

Excellent contribution as always JRB. Perhaps you feel a little like me insofar as I think our society and services are slowly being corroded. Slowly enough for the many not to notice until it will be too late.

subrosa said...

Well living in a golfing area Demetrius, I know that ‘meeting of minds’ as well as golf games, already happens.

subrosa said...

An excellent contribution from you too Antisthenes and some great points.

As you say, to the local person what matters is local policing and if police are being moved all over the place, then local communities lose the bobbies who know their areas inside out. That’s why the one I spoke to was so frustrated because it takes a great deal of time to learn who’s who and what’s what - time which is unnecessary. Since I wrote this yesterday I’ve discovered one of our local bobbies has resigned because he doesn’t want to spend sees/months away from his young family.

subrosa said...

'Make no mistake, there is always a degree of cock-up but what we are seeing is the imposition of a long-planned , alien form of government by a political class whose loyalties are elsewhere’

Well said Edward.

Lord Monty said...

Scotland is a single region of the EU so will have one police force and one fire service etc. It breaks the link between the public and the 'local' and so makes it easier to control people when the time comes.

Any idea what's going on at Ashludie Hospital SR ? It's gone from geriatric home to a full riot training facility...with baton rounds, angry mobs, dogs and water cannon etc. It can't be the white paper on independence that's got them all excited can it ?
Hopefully the patients have all been moved out :)

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